“I’m going to put a sign on this pole, that pole, that pole,” Albano said. “They come from all over. And they’ll say, ‘Albano was here,’ because they saw the signs. It’s like a trademark.”
On all the Warren signs, he stapled a smaller green placard that made it clear who authorized the work. “Mayor Menino supports Elizabeth Warren,” the placard read. Warren had been seeking the mayor’s help, Albano said, but he demurred until making his endorsement official in September.
Before dawn on Election Day, FitzGerald and others prepared Prince Hall to channel the energy of an influx of volunteers. They removed most chairs so people would not be tempted to remain idle.
The team included political operatives from the Service Employees International Union, which also provided a battalion of volunteers. They made a scoreboard on the wall to track each “turf,” a segment of a precinct that could be walked by one or two people. The operation there targeted 65 precincts in Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, Democratic strongholds packed with sporadic voters. The goal was to knock on the door of every registered voter two or three times.
Leslie Stafford, 47, a member of the service employees union, walked an early morning turf on Glenway Street. “One of the biggest keys,” Stafford said, “is keep smiling.”
On the other side of Dorchester, at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103, another large hall buzzed with activity. Scores of union members ran a phone bank, calling fellow members and voters across the state. In the South End, Warren volunteers served coffee and doughnuts to voters waiting outside the polling place at Cathedral High School.
As the sun set, the army continued knocking on doors, checking off names of voters who cast ballots. In the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood, Judy Coughlin, 66, worked methodically through her list with a cheerful determination. Coughlin carried a clipboard and used the iPhone she received as a retirement gift as a flashlight. Her list pointed to a three-decker that sat on a hill 31 steps above the street.
Coughlin looked up and climbed slowly onto the porch. She found seven doorbells. Coughlin pushed each. Then she knocked. A woman answered and told her she had already voted.
“Beautiful,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin checked the name off the list and then asked by name about every other registered voter in the household.
At another door, Coughlin met a woman named Gwen White waiting for her two daughters to return from work so they could all go to polls.
“We were planning on voting anyway,” said White, 50, who broke into a smile. “Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren!”
When polls closed at 8 p.m., more than 300 waited outside at the James F. Condon School on D Street. Brown had strong support in much of South Boston, but this line was for Ward 6, Precinct 1, a mix of ethnic minorities and young professionals. It covers a swath of South Boston including the West Broadway housing development and the burgeoning neighborhoods in Fort Point and the Seaport. Menino’s troops believed many of the voters shivering on that sidewalk were their supporters, and they did not want them to give up.
A crew of Warren volunteers worked the line with incentives to stay. They handed out slices of pizza. They poured cups of steaming coffee and hot chocolate. They offered bottles of water, hand warmers, cookies. The campaign sent a food truck that served cookies and soup. Two female volunteers held opposite ends of a cardboard box filled with chips, Hershey Kisses, and peanut butter crackers, joking that they were stewardesses serving snacks on a flight.
The extras helped keep Davi Martinez, 20, in line. Campaign volunteers gave Martinez hand warmers to stuff in her shoes and thaw out her feet. She nibbled on the food, bouncing from foot to foot and waiting two hours to vote for Obama and Warren.
“Hot chocolate and pizza,” Martinez said. “They won my vote.”